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The Ballad of Morris Schappes

Henry Foner
Language: English



[1942]
Scritta da Norman Franklin (?) ed Henry Foner (1919-vivente?), sindacalista, militante per i diritti civili e contro la guerra in Vietnam.
Testo trovato su Labor Arts

Negli anni 40, giovane studente comunista, Henry Foner fu lui stesso vittima delle epurazioni nelle scuole newyorkesi stabilite dal Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate the Educational System, uno dei tanti comitati che si occupavano della “bonifica” dei comunisti negli apparati pubblici.



Canzone in onore di Morris U. Schappes (1907–2004, nato Moishe Shapshilevich, di origine ucraina), la più illustre ed irriducibile delle vittime del Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate the Educational System of the State of New York, il cosiddetto “Rapp-Coudert Committee”, uno dei comitati precursori della caccia alle streghe anticomunista che avrebbe visto il suo apice nei primi anni 50 con il senatore Joseph McCarthy.

L’arresto di Morris Schappes nel 1941, disegno di Hugo Gellert, illustratore americano di origine ungherese.
L’arresto di Morris Schappes nel 1941, disegno di Hugo Gellert, illustratore americano di origine ungherese.


Schappes era uno stimatissimo docente di letteratura inglese al City College di New York. Nel 1934 aveva aderito al Partito Comunista e subito le autorità scolastiche avevano cercato di farlo fuori ma senza riuscirvi, grazie alla mobilitazione degli studenti che in 1.500 avevano firmato una petizione in favore del loro amato docente. Nel 1941 ci riprovarono quelli del Rapp-Coudert Committee, e ci riuscirono soltanto accusandolo di falsa testimonianza perché Schappes, a differenza di altri invischiati nell’inchiesta che fecero nomi e cognomi, non aveva denunciato nessuno.



Espulso dal City College, Morris Schappes si dedicò con successo alla storiografia e fu responsabile per quattro decenni di “Jewish Currents”, rivista ebraica laica e progressista.
When I put on long britches,
Dad pulled his belt in two, three hitches –
Said, “Son, you’ve still got far to go.
Go ‘long to City College
And fill your noodle full of knowledge
That in this world you’ll need to know.”

Having learned my ABC’s,
I got onto IRT –
To 139th and Convent I did roam.
There I learned cosines and logs –
Pulled apart a couple of frogs,
And for four long years, called alma mater home.

I went to class in History,
But it still remained a mystery
Why some were poor and some folks rich.
When I asked the teacher “Why?”
He glared at me like fit to die
And called me a “good-for-nothing big young upstart.”

Then to Eco I did go –
Watched the business cycles grow –
Saw the seven fat years swallowed by the lean.
When I asked my teacher “Why?”
All he did was groan and sigh,
Said “What’s been has been and having been, has been.”

Then in despair, I wandered
To where literature was pondered,
Thought I’d find the long-hairs mighty dry.
I met a larnin’ chap,
His proud name, folks, was Morris Schappes --
Now I praise the long-hairs to the sky.

There I heard no “ifs” or “buts,”
Saw this teacher, full of guts,
Teaching stuff for which I’d gladly walk a mile.
He made learning come alive –
Set me hep to Shelley’s jive,
And, strange to say, made Wordsworth’s words worth while.

To guys like me, those days meant
So much that ‘twas with amazement,
I learned that Schappes went to jail.
If we let guys like Morris
Go down, then poor freedom’s star is
Gonna be glimmerin’ awful pale.

So you folks who know the score,
Realize that in this war,
We need guys like Schappes building unity.
Now’s the time, so let’s not wait –
Open wide the prison gate,
And set Schappes free to fight for victory.

Contributed by Bernart Bartleby - 2016/2/10 - 12:50



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